Summer Storm

I wrote this in response to a picture of a friend I saw. It’s meant to be a little noir, en medias res sort of start to an old-style detective novel. A kind of prologue where the next chapter would start months/weeks earlier and introduce the character after hooking the reader. Would love to know what you think.



The streets of Chicago were burning with the July heat. Humid air hung all around you, threatening to cling to the fabric of your body and soul like weights, slowing every movement you made and sapping your very will to exist. I drew a white cotton handkerchief from the depths of my pocket and drew it slowly across my forehead and down the side of my face, drawing the moisture from deep set lines and rough stubble that seemed to hold the air close to it like a lover, despite my soul’s protestations. It was Sunday, and here I was off to Mass…wouldn’t mother be proud. It had been years since I’d darkened the door of a church, and let’s be straight with each other, I wasn’t too thrilled about going now. But something was drawing me towards St. James’ this morning, and empty ache in my gut that whispered with the sort of earnestness that couldn’t be ignored.

I didn’t feel much better as I rounded the corner, the lights of the meat wagon and the checkered squads spinning in the street, chasing each other in meaningless circles of endless pursuit. As I drew up close to the blue and white barricades, I saw Captain Donnelly tearing into some twenty-something rook like a half-starved pitbull knaws on a bloody steak. Connor Donnelly was a short man, no taller than 5’6″, but built wide and thick like a Georgetown bulldog. A hapless corporal once made the mistake of commenting Connor had the jowels to match, and while accurate, was overheard by the good Captain, and was met with a curt riposte that left him doing a raccoon impression for several weeks to come.  And while Capt. Donnelly had the personality of a junkyard dog, he had the tenacity to go with it…which in his business proved a definite asset.

My stomach turned again, threatening to expose the double of whiskey I’d managed for breakfast, as well as the fifth I’d had for supper the night before, and I wasn’t looking forward to dancing with the Captain yet again. Still, I steeled myself for the inevitable barrage of indignation and insult sure to fly my way when he caught sight of me. Donnelly was lacking in manners, despised my profession, and never forgave me for marrying his sister, God rest her soul. So, like true men, we were fairly close, as you might imagine.

“You bug-eyed little piss-stain! Do you not know the difference between a crime scene and your shit-hole rutting ground? Keep your sorry carcass out of this scene, out of this church, and out of my God-da…”

“Careful Donnelly, He might hear you…”

His mouth half opened in a mix of roaring and shock his eyes narrowed to slits as his voice lowered to a slow menacing, icy hiss that cooled that poor rook down to his soul, even in this heat.


Twenty Something, possibly as near as a full grown man can be to soiling his blues, saluted and turned to go anywhere but ground zero of what would have proven to be the finest fit of rage the town had seen on a Sunday since the fire chief happened about Ms. O’Leary the day after.

“Carter…..go to confession.”

I blinked in confusion…it was never this easy with Connor. Cocking a sarcastic grin, I quipped, “Funny, confession was not at all the way I thought you were going to finish that sentence…”

“Carter….confessional. Now.”

The soft, commanding tone he used made me swallow hard and turn toward the heavy, oaken doors of the cathedral almost immediately. It was typically a fight to enter one of Donnelly’s scenes – usually one where I had to convince him through frustration that it was simply easier to let me pass than continue arguing with me. To simply let me in without a fight, and even tell me where I was supposed to look, made me more uncomfortable than I care to admit.

“And Carter….I’m….I’m sorry.”

My brows creased heavily as my hand found the warm brass of the handle. I held the door open a crease, standing there in silence for a long moment. Connor hadn’t apologized to me in ages, not since Mary had…well, it had been a long time. Turning to glance at him, his dark green eyes brewed with concern, something that made my muscles tense and my eyes narrow. With a deep breath, I heaved the door open and entered.

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the bluish light of the stained glass. The window stood tall and bright, bearing the name of St. James the Just, illuminating the dust particles that floated listlessly in the air, making it feel almost as if the sea had turned to light, washing over and baptizing you in serenity and calm. But as I took a deep, slow breath, I smelled it. Blood is the kind of smell you never forget – heavy and stolid. It leaves a sort of coppery taste in your nose and mouth, and when left to hang in the air seems to scream silently in protest, as if lamenting its untimely freedom from the vessel of its birth. I’d smelled enough blood to last several lifetimes, spilled by my hands and the hands of others…but this scent had no place in a Church.

The heavy soles of my shoes thudded along the polished floor as I moved forward toward a group of men hanging about the light stained boxes that comprised the confessionals. As I rounded the aisle, the spread apart slowly, and my stomach eased as my heart sank.

The soft rouge that colored her porcelain cheeks seemed to defy the pallor that was slowly creeping into them. Her ruby lips, pursed in an eternal exhalation, begged even the most chaste of men to indulge slowly, sinfully in one soft kiss, even if it meant she would inhale your very soul in payment. The slow, lithe curve of her neck was exposed to the wafting light of the candelabra that stood vigil nearby, as if each flame fought the power of darkness with each flicker, somehow trying to willfully keep death from violating her any further. From the front, she stood temporarily immortalized in youth and beauty, wreathed in ravens wings that rippled like dark water around her shoulders each time the air dared to move around her. Her red hair spilled out around her head and shoulders, making it hard to see where the long crimson strands stopped, and the darkening sanguine pool began, the blood matted and clinging to her hair as if even it could not stand to be parted from its creator.

As I moved close to her, I knelt, brushing back the veil she wore only slightly, staring down with a soft sigh. It caught in my throat, however, as her gaze met mine. Those soft, silver-blue eyes peered deep within me, seeing everything and nothing all at once. They seemed to ask a secret question, the kind you don’t know how to ask, but will rend the very fabric of your being just to catch a glimpse of the answer to.  They held me  softly, curling in and around me like incense, soaking into the dark, quiet places I keep my secrets in, filling me with the sadness of a thousand lost lover’s tears, and longing thirst for a single touch that threatens to parch your heart eternally from all emotion if you cannot feel the fluttering touch of one fingertip, or live a millisecond millennium within her gaze, stolen between blinks.

I could have starved to death staring into her soft, sensual gaze, but I was brought to reality by a nearby sergeant’s voice, braying like a mule, shattering the silence and reverence that hung in and around her.

“Eh, you know this one Carter?”

I exhaled slowly, and I could feel my facial muscles hardening into an iron mask, driving all emotion from my features.

“Not particularly,” I lied, “but I might have seen her somewhere before. You know how my memory is.”

“Used to be pretty good, as I recall, when you weren’t pickling it with the sauce…”

I didn’t notice my fists were clenched into whitened snowballs of knuckles and rage, but as I turned to head out, I snorted at the good sergeant in reply. I presumed my eyes held enough meaning, as he stumbled back a step or two, muttering something that I’m sure would have been an apology, had I heard it over the blood thundering in my ears.

I wasn’t sure who ‘they’ were. I wasn’t sure why ‘they’ had done it. But ‘they’ had killed Katherine….and I was going to kill ‘them’….all of ‘them’…or my name wasn’t Carter McBride.


~ by nihilano on July 7, 2012.

3 Responses to “Summer Storm”

  1. Hooked! More please.

  2. Dude, finish this!

  3. I could see you in this. Probably the best I have ever visualized any book in memory. I am actaully pissed there isn’t more.

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